4 predictions for Open Source in 2020


This is a contributed article by Patrick McFadin, VP Developer Relations, DataStax

As a way of approaching software development, open source has been with us for decades. For over twenty years, organisations like the Apache Software Foundation have supported the development of open source software projects that led to new applications and online services enjoyed by billions globally.

However, what will happen to open source in 2020 and in the years ahead? Will the open source movement continue to support and develop software effectively, or are there future risks we need to address?

Prediction #1 – The problem between cloud and open source won’t go away

In 2019, companies like Confluent, Elastic, and MongoDB made changes to how they license their open source projects to prevent them being monetised by cloud service providers without contributions in return. This led to lengthy debates in the open source community on whether these steps were correct, the effect on community development, and impact to the world of open source.

While these debates continue, the impact of these changes has yet to be felt. For some cloud providers, taking an old version of an open source project and effectively forking the project is enough to keep developers happy — while the open source project is shut out from a source of revenue. For other cloud operators, working with the open source community has been a way to differentiate themselves.

What will take place in 2020 will be complicated. Open source licensing will continue to be an issue between open source communities, supporting companies and cloud providers. However, the impact will be unevenly distributed. Some projects will continue to grow because they are able to be used in the cloud, regardless of their official availability. Others will continue to grow despite the cloud headwind because their offer is so valuable. Some will find that stricter licenses will blunt their growth and result in the same conflict as being available for cloud provider use.

Prediction #2 – The growth of Kubernetes will put more emphasis on specific open source tooling

Kubernetes continues to get adopted by companies that want to manage their containers, particularly across multi-cloud deployments. Kubernetes is still far in advance, as compared to where the wider industry is around container management and orchestration. It will continue to develop rapidly to match developer demands.

The rest of IT operations keeping up has become a challenge. Kubernetes is complex under the hood and difficult to manage, yet it has to integrate with all the operations and automation tasks across IT. As a result, more emphasis on tooling and integration will be needed.

For open source, the growth of Kubernetes operators to integrate and manage tasks will be essential. These developments will be as important as the availability of new application drivers to make adoption easier. For the community, creating and sharing these operators will support easier integration with new microservices applications.

Conversely, without these operators, it will be harder for applications to scale at the rate developers and customers expect.

Prediction #3 – The role of companies in open source community development will be more obvious

Open source has long had the perception that contributions can come from anyone. However, the majority of contributions for most open source projects come from developers that are either directly sponsored by software companies or by companies that have significant strategic commitments to those projects.

In 2020, all companies that support open source should look at how to better bolster and make these projects more widely available. This includes able businesses promoting commercial development, which can make a huge impact on how projects get adopted and supported over time.

For example, commercial organisations are important for awareness and visibility around projects — software companies like Confluent, DataStax, Red Hat, and Canonical play critical roles in supporting the development, growth, and direction of Kafka, Apache Cassandra™, and Linux communities. However, these communities have to also be able to govern where they want to go. In the Cassandra world, representatives from the likes of Netflix, Instagram, Apple, and Uber participate in the decisions on where the project will develop in the future and when releases are made available to the world. The commercial side has to better support the community-led approach. Cassandra now has the Cassandra Enhancement Process (CEP) which creates formalisms around addition of major new features. The intended result is better communication and collaboration between everyone in the community.

Alongside coupling commercial and community goals to provide focus for open source projects, there are many other ways that projects need support. For example, producing and providing documentation is essential for those new to a particular project, which helps provide direction on everyday elements, as well as areas that need work.

Prediction #4 – Microservices will drive more open source adoption

More companies are using microservices in application design because the approach makes it easier to scale up components or services based on demand. This adoption pattern grew in 2019, and will continue to advance in 2020.

In practice, this means the components themselves will get smaller and more specialised. This should lead to more adoption of open source projects for services that meet specific goals around the application and most importantly, an easy API to consume. However, these components will require database infrastructure that can ingest data in the right way. While it might be tempting to simply stream data from these components and act on the results, that approach has limitations. There are some functions that are better suited to database technology. Supporting microservices applications effectively will lead to more open source database projects in 2020, particularly when it comes to scaling up those services to meet demand levels.

In 2020, cloud computing will continue to grow as the dominant approach for new application deployment. Open source software components will play critical roles within this, particularly when it comes to running applications at scale. However, the open source movement will have to adapt to cloud deployment practices, emphasising the value that the open approach has for community members and enterprise organisations alike. With more deployments taking place across hybrid and multi-cloud environments, open source will be essential.

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